By 2035, the way we produce and consume media will be entirely different from how we experience it now. Today there is still a "fourth wall" between us and the media we consume: within three decades, that line between reality and its recreation will all but disappear. Our media experiences will become fully immersivefrom spherical audio and video that tracks with our body's movements, to gestural computing, to physical-feedback devices, and more. Using tomorrow's technology, our children and grandchildren may find it difficult to distinguish the real thing from reproduced.
After going so far off the beaten path in my last column, with examinations of digital signal processing (DSP) from miniDSP and Illusonic and multichannel in-room measurements, this month I take a look at and listen to a new preamplifier-processor from Yamaha, along with its companion multichannel power amplifier. The Japanese company (footnote 1) was a pioneer in digital signal processing (DSP) and multichannel sound, but for a long while now has been swimming in the mainstream of audio/video receivers and home theater.
In the wake of my October 2013 "Listening" column and its negative take on the Pete Riggle Woody tonearm (footnote 1), I was surprised and gratified by the offer of another new arm: a gesture of trust not unlike sending one's children to a sleepover at Casey Anthony's house. The supplier was Phillip Holmes, of Texas-based Mockingbird Distribution (footnote 2), and the new tonearm was the Abis SA-1, the design and manufacture of which was commissioned by the Japanese firm Sibatech, itself a distributor of dozens of high-end audio brands, including Zyx, Mactone, Zerodust, and, perhaps most famously, Kondo.
In his article on the future of audio engineering in this issue, John La Grou tells ussuccinctly and correctly, I thinkthat we are rapidly moving from a culture of handheld devices to one of headworn devices. He postulates that by perhaps as early as 2025, rather than being actively sought out, most audio/video media will be delivered, like milk or the newspaperbut delivered not to our front doors, but more or less straight to our brains. Fascinating? Sure. Frightening? Kinda, yeah.
Back in the summer of 2009, USB-connected D/A processors that could operate at sample rates greater than 48kHz were rare. Ayre Acoustics had just released its groundbreaking QB-9, one of the first DACs to use Gordon Rankin's Streamlength code for Texas Instruments' TAS1020 USB 1.1 receiver chip. Streamlength allowed the chip to operate in the sonically beneficial asynchronous mode, where the PC sourcing the audio data is slaved to the DAC. But high-performance, USB-connected DACs like the Ayre were also relatively expensive back then, so in the January 2010 issue of Stereophile I reviewed a pair of soundcards from major computer manufacturer ASUS , the Xonar Essence ST and STX, which, at $200, offered a much more cost-effective means of playing hi-rez files on a PC.
Most folks don't even know they exist, but the Channel Islands are a chain of eight moderately sized mountains poking through the Pacific Ocean along the coast of southern California, between Santa Barbara and San Diego. The most famous of these is Catalina Island and its city, Avalon, which sit opposite San Clemente. The other Channel Islands are relatively wild and have been preserved mostly uninhabited.
Over half a century after the creation of the prized Everest Records catalog, most of whose 78 classical titles were recorded between 1958 and 1961 on 35mm magnetic tape in three-channel stereo, 61 titles have now been remastered and released in multiple formats. In addition to physical CD and downloadable Mastered for iTunes versions, a still-expanding, luscious hi-res treasure trove of Everest titles may be downloaded from HDTracks's Everest Records pages. All HDTracks titles, remastered from the master tapes in 24/192, are available in both 24/192 and 24/96 versions.
As songwriters go, Guy Clark has been touched by the muse more than most. Unfortunately, in recent years he's also been visited by illness and heartache. In June 2012, his wife of 40 years, Susanna Clark, who was both a songwriter ("Easy from Now On") and an artist (the cover of Willie Nelson's Stardust), died in Nashville. In the past several years Clark, 72, has battled lymphoma, had his knees replaced, and undergone an arterial replacement in one leg. He was being treated for skin cancer when I visited his home, south of Nashville, in October 2013.